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flyerguybham's Profile

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Christmas Eve in Birmingham?

Gianmarco's is not in Southside, and they've been booked through to the end of the year for weeks now anyhow.

I don't know if these places are all open, but Chez Fonfon, Bottega, 26, Ocean, Hot and Hot Fish Club and The Veranda are some of the better dining locales in Southside. The first four I can recommend personally, the others I haven't been to but have listed if one of the first four doesn't work out. There's of course also Highlands, but I'm assuming they're booked (Chez Fonfon is the casual side of Highlands and doesn't take reservations, earlier you go the better, but I don't know if that applies to Christmas Eve).

I imagine Southside as a whole will be pretty quiet on Christmas Eve, but those would all be nice choices. Blue Monkey (if you are a martini person) or J Clyde (beer person) would be nice stops afterwards. (Again, check hours before going).

Dec 22, 2009
flyerguybham in Central South

Romantic in Birmingham

Between Red Pearl and Chen's, I would go with Chen's for the better date atmosphere. Red Pearl has great food, but some people might be a little turned off by the setting for a date. BTW, if you do want Surin, I find the one in Mountain Brook to be better than the one in 5 points.

Nov 13, 2009
flyerguybham in Central South

Birmingham - Southeast Asian Grocer

G200 - not even sure you are still around as I didn't see your question for six months. Anyway, to answer the question, I am a Philadelphia Flyers fan (hockey) - the second half is hopefully obvious. :-)

Bham -- New French Place?

I've not been to Chez Fonfon yet. Certainly just from appearances Cafe de Paris is a more casual atmosphere. The menu is more affordable at Cafe de Paris from what I am seeing online. The cuisine at Fonfon looks like it tends towards more traditional fare - the sample menu I am looking at, Fonfon is serving rabbit, lamb, steak tartare, escargot - the food at Paris is more familiar. There is some overlap, such as the Croque Madame, quiche, the salads, salmon.

Basically, I would say that Fonfon is a bit more of a "destination" restaurant that you plan ahead to go to every now and then, whereas Paris is more of the neighborhood cafe that you might drop into once a week, and I think the menus and prices reflect that.

Quality of the food, I can't really compare, having not eaten at Fonfon.

Feb 06, 2009
flyerguybham in Central South

Birmingham bakeries

One thing I wish we had is better -bread- bakeries. We do pretty well with cakes and sweets, but I'm not real happy with the straight up European style breabd bakeries.

Having said that, I like Continental best. Are there others I am missing? I just want amazing baguettes and other Italian and French breads.

Bham area - Let's talk barbecue

I've heard about this place a couple of times recently, I hope to get over there to try it soon.

The place has an interesting history - owners of the chain (yes, it's a chain, and based in Colorado at that) were from Tuscaloosa and had a restaurant there that closed I think in the 80s. They moved to Vail, and started selling it out there, eventually getting successful enough to start a chain and they ended up back here. Didn't they just open some other locations in town?

Weird - Jim N Nicks is now in a couple of western states (Colorado and Arizona at least, for sure), and chains based out there that started here are coming back here.

Feb 05, 2009
flyerguybham in Central South

Bham -- New French Place?

Went back again for lunch today with my wife. Walked in around 12:15 and almost every table full - probably a result of the 4-star review the Birmingham News gave them a few days ago.

Evans (one of the two owners) greeted us and sat us, but it was taking a long time for drink orders. After about 8-10 minutes we started to notice that there seemed to be only one waitress. Evans was running back and forth from the floor to the kitchen playing host, waiter, and chef. You could tell he was beyond nervous - it was clear they were WAY understaffed for the crush - we wondered if they had not anticipated the effect of the good review in the paper.

He finally got back to us after about 10 minutes. He apologized profusely, MANY times, and said that they had 4 servers call out sick today (not surprising - seems like half my office is either out sick or getting over something now). We noticed some tables were getting distinctly restless, as the one remaining waitress and Evans tried to manage the whole room (and Evans was also helping cook - I was peeking back in the kitchen from time to time and I think it was just the other owner back there).

Surprisingly, once the orders got in, everything went fairly fast. More importantly, the quality of the food was probably even better than the first time. I had the Chateau Steak and my wife had the Quiche of the Day, which was a bell pepper quiche. My steak was delicious, a good size, and cooked to my specification. On the side I had the carrot puree, which sounds not very good, but was delicious, it was a ramekin with a puree of roasted carrots, it was really nice and creamy and the roasted flavor came through. I also had fries. Steak, fries, and carrots were $10 (as are most/all of the lunch items).

The quiche, however, was the star. It was honestly the best quiche either of us had ever tasted, and we order quiche a lot. For example, we usually like the quiche at Sunday brunch at Chez Lulu, and this blew it out of the water. It was incredibly flavorful, the peppers were fantastic, and the cheese was nice and strong and really came through. I was eating the little bits left on my wife's plate when she was done.

During our meal, Evans managed to check on us a few times and kept our drinks full, and each time he apologized profusely for the delays (which really, once the drink order was taken, were not that long). We said that it was no problem and that we were enjoying our lunch, but he said, "No, I must apologize, you are the customers and this is not right and this will never happen again, I cannot apologize enough" and on and on. He was really sincere, if over the top a little. He insisted that we enjoy a dessert on the house, so after much arm twisting (ok, not that much :-) we shared the cherry pie. It was also fantastic, an individual pie with a really interesting crust halfway between pie crust and almost like a custard, with dark cherries baked in, a bit of ice cream on top, and a fruit glaze and cream type sauce on the dish. Yum.

Meanwhile, now that most of the lunch rush had been served their food, Evans went around to each table with apologies and insisted that everyone get a free dessert. We had been eying one table of six that was REALLY unhappy with the delays, and watching how they would respond. They were gruff in their responses, sitting with their arms crossed, but put in their dessert requests. When the desserts came, it sounds ridiculous, but they took a couple of bites, and the entire demeanor of the table changed. Their postures relaxed, they started smiling, they were swapping talk about how good all of the desserts were - it was one of the best saves of a customer service situation I've seen in a while and they left happy.

We were in the restaurant all told about an hour and 10 minutes (would have been an hour without the dessert). A little long for lunch, but we didn't mind, these things happen, Evans did a good job to salvage the situation as best he could, and most importantly, the food was again fantastic. We're already talking about our next trip there.

I know I sound like they hired me to do their marketing, but I can't say enough good things about this place. The food is really good, especially for the price, and I just like to see someone so earnest about running a restaurant and doing right by his customers.

Feb 05, 2009
flyerguybham in Central South

Bham -- New French Place?

Sorry - didn't see this thread at first. I just posted a lengthy review in the thread titled "Cafe de Paris in Birmingham" - here's a link to that thread:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590367

Jan 24, 2009
flyerguybham in Central South

Cafe de Paris in Birmingham

Has anyone else eaten at Cafe de Paris (http://www.cafedeparis.us/) yet? My wife and I went for lunch this week. It is in Lakeview in the location formerly occupied by Los Angeles. It is run by two chefs that grew up and trained in France and have been working in Birmingham area restaurants for a few years (Bottega, Five Points Grill, Lakeview Oyster House). We came away impressed.

My wife had the ham and cheese crepe and I had a salmon panini (not sure how authentic French that is but it was good!) The crepe was -loaded- with filling and was very tasty - the ham was smoky and also had some sweet notes to it. The panini was one of the best paninis I have had - thin slices of smoked salmon, hard boiled egg, tomato, a really nice mayo based spread, and pressed really nicely in the panini press. The sides were excellent - the chef mentioned that all of the produce came fresh from the Alabama Farmer's Market. I had the mixed veggies which were grilled and included eggplant, squash, tomato, mushrooms, carrots, very nicely seasoned. The fries were hand cut and I am pretty sure they were oven baked, too.

While we were waiting on our meal, we received a complementary appetizer, they were a wonton type wrapper stuffed with a cheese/herb/nut mix of some sort and fried, with a sweet (mango?) dipping sauce. I don't think that's something you would see in classic France cuisine, but I could see it being inspired by French island or French African influences. In any case, it was tasty and they were gone in 60 seconds. :-) We also saw other tables receive complementary fruit desserts - clearly they were proud of their food and wanted to share it! We also had a basket of fresh bread that was made and baked fresh in the kitchen and was excellent.

Evans, one of the chefs, welcomed us when we first were seated and explained his vision for the restaurant. He came again to check on us during our meal, and bid us "au revoir" as we left. The waitress was friendly and appropriately attentive. The restaurant was not crowded, about 7 or so tables were occupied, but everyone seemed to really be enjoying their food and interacting with the staff and chef.

The food is also very affordable. Almost all of the lunches (entrees, crepes, and paninis) are $9.95, and come with two sides. It was a lot of food for the price, especially since it was high quality, and not just repeats of what you can get in all of the other lunch spots around town. I am looking forward to going back again for lunch and dinner. Speaking of which, they are doing a special Valentine's event if anyone is looking to do something a little different.

Now for the cons, and really it's only one, the decor of the place. The room is cavernous with very tall ceilings. So when you walk in, it doesn't feel like a cozy French cafe at all. There are scenes of Paris on the walls, but for some reason, the artwork is hung -very- high on the walls, so down at table level it seems spare. There is no unifying theme - the entry is vaguely Asian, with a woven bamboo-type screen framing the entrance. One corner of the restaurant is framed by fake-ivy-topped classical columns which feel out of place. There are large glass windows which let in too much light and also provide a random scene of a somewhat neglected corner of Lakeview. And there is a bar that juts out into the room, but which feels kind of out of place and unfinished. All in all, you can kind of tell it was decorated by two chefs on a very tight budget. :-) I would personally like to see the curtains drawn to soften the light in the room a bit, bring the artwork and lighting down, incorporate darker, richer colors (wood tones and dark reds, burgundies,brass) - something cozier so that when you step inside, you feel like you've left Birmingham. I realize that would be expensive, and I also understand they had a REALLY hard time getting financing for this (turned down by 40 banks and eventually raised family money) but there are probably some simple things they could do to make the space cozier.

Having said that, it's very clear that these two guys are earnest and have a passion for bringing French cafe cuisine to Birmingham. The quality of the food I've had so far is excellent, and the menu is interesting and quirky enough to differentiate themselves. I think they have an uphill battle because of the economy right now and because the space could use some improvement, but if you focus on the service and what's on your plate it's really a nice change of pace and I would recommend that you give it a try. I'd like to see these guys succeed - they have a good story and are working hard, they seem to genuinely care about Birmingham and the dining scene here, and they are doing a good job merging French cuisine and local tastes in a way that's different than what is available elsewhere around town (especially at these prices).

So, anyone else been here yet? What did you think?

Birmingham - Southeast Asian Grocer

I have always had good luck at Chai's Market (that's the one sheilal mentioned on 7th and 22nd). I have bought kaffir lime leaves there. The owner is from Thailand and they have always had the ingredients I need for the Malaysian food I cook. The store is TINY but if you ask the owner, he will help you locate everything. They bring in fresh produce twice a week from Atlanta. It's super cheap too!

Birmingham Pizza

My thoughts:

I'm 100% Italian and from the northeast, so my expectations for pizza are both biased towards NY style pizza but at the same time, recognizing where I now live geographically, I lower my expectations accordingly. :-) I also like lots of different styles of pizza, so I'm pretty open to trying anything.

Bettola - was happy to see it open because of the emphasis on "doing it the right way" where right == Naples. What with the imported pizza oven and ingredients, etc... However, results are mixed. There's one pizza there that always arrives soggy and oily. I wish I could remember the name of it. They overdo the toppings on that particular one, and the dough in the center is soaked through. On the other hand, I've had other pizzas there that are outstanding. So, it's hit or miss.

Bottega - Fantastic wood oven pizzas. Just had a couple of them this week. Maybe my new favorite in town.

Davenports - Good for what it is, which is semi-crispy thin crust. I first encountered this as "St. Louis Style" pizza when I moved out there for college, and I have to be honest, it can't hold a candle to either traditional or NY style pizza. So, I've never really loved that style of pizza. Having said that, I like the atmosphere, and every once in a while, I like going there. Warning: service will be very slow.

New York Pizza - Never really been impressed with anything there, including the pizza.

Rocky's - Horrendously overpriced. Someone described this as "overpriced pizza for college students." Trust me, I work at UAB, the college students are not eating this. I don't know any student who eats there, not for these prices. I went there once for lunch, paid a fortune for a single slice (I think it was like close to $5 if I remember correctly) and it was -not good-. Sauce too sweet.

Guiseppe's - I haven't had any with traditional toppings, but their chicken pesto one is decent. Not earth shattering.

Worst "pizza" ever - Italia Express near UAB. I hesitate to even call this pizza. I don't know if they still do, but when I first tried it, they made what they called pizzas on pitas in a steam oven. No, that is not a typo. It was like pizza meets the middle east meets taco bell. It was ridiculous. I have never been back.

Gourmet Chain Pizza - CPK has a couple of really tasty gourmet ones. Brio does nice pizzas; unfortunately, they took some of them off of their menu.

Special Note on Chicago Style pizza - I don't really find this to be pizza so much as "deep dish calorie bomb of toppings with some bread in there somewhere" but given that disclaimer, Tortuga's in Hoover on 150 is the only place I know of that's really doing this style well in town.

And just for completeness...

Regular Chain Pizza - Given that I work with college students, we're often eating cheap, delivery pizza at the university. In those instances, Papa John's is much better than Pizza Hut or Domino's in my opinion. For eat-in, Mellow Mushroom is a decent place to hang out, but the pizza is not really a reason to go there. And it's pricey for what it is.

Looks like I need to try DeVinci's and Dave's based on reading here.

Feb 06, 2008
flyerguybham in Central South

Further Birmingham discussion - what about these places?

My husband just pointed this site out to me (see Flyerguybham below). How cool!

I think that Lucy's has great paninis- the roast beef is my fav. They also come with pickled okra on the side, which is quite tasty. Lucy has said that the reason they have survived since Starbucks moved in is because of their lunchtime panini business. Interesting tidbit-Lucy started her business selling coffee from a cart on the street near UAB hospital.

While I haven't had the burgers at Becky's yet, I am somewhat skeptical. They only opened that place about a month ago, so unless they have another location, I think they have bestowed the honor of best burger on themselves.

Tracy's is OK, but for meat and three in the UAB area, I prefer Ted's. I usually order baked chicken at meat and threes, which can be very dry. But the chicken at Teds is moist and flavorful.

I do enjoy the Surin in southside, but I think the Surin in Mountain Brook is better. They have one of my favorite dishes in town-forgive me if this is spelled wrong- kao mo kai. It's chicken and rice baked in a little tandori pot, which comes with this amazing green sauce that is to die for. And the bonus is that you can get gelato at Angel's after you are done. It's across the street from Surin in Crestline Village and it's the real deal. Great seasonal flavors.

I haven't been to Cobb Lane, but I do remember being unimpressed with a recipe of theirs printed in the paper. It was apparently for one of their most famous dishes- it was chicken with 2 kinds of canned creamed soups. I was shocked that they actually admitted that was the secret recipe. No good.

Looking forward to reading more from everyone!

BTW, I'm from Minnesota and I have been dying to find a place that has a big selection of pies. I miss the places where you can choose from 30 kinds, ranging from heath bar to rhubarb. Anyone know where I can find some pie?

Further Birmingham discussion - what about these places?

Hi everyone - I just discovered this website and I'm in foodie heaven. I never realized there were so many others out there in B'ham like us (us being me and my wife, always trying new places around here). So hopefully I'll be posting and learning a lot around here.

To address Dax' question, specifically Cosmo's, I wanted to recommend it as a fun laid-back place to get Sunday brunch. Just go at noon or later if you want to partake in the self-serve Bloody Mary bar (well, they bring you the alcohol, you mix as desired with lots of fixin's). I've actually not had their pizza yet, but their brunch a few times.

Iz Two was completely uninteresting when I poked my head in a few weeks back. I've had Fire on my list for a while. Based on the chat here, I think it just got bumped up to the top of the list.

My personal favorites around town right now are Cantina, the Vietnamese place on Green Springs whose name I can never remember (and wouldn't be able to type even if I could), Jim N Nicks (though my true favorite BBQ is Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur which I pilgrimage to on a semi-regular basis), umm, where else? There's too many. Ate at Sekisui last night, sushi was good, grill items took FOREVER to arrive, almost an hour. Missed our movie because of it. Trying to think where else I've eaten in the past couple of weeks... La Paz... bought some Continental Bakery bread this morning at Pepper Place... I eat at Brio a lot especially with vendors from work, it's my chain restaurant of choice and it's friendly and safe for business partners and such. :-) Finally tried the cheesesteak at Salem's diner after Craig Ferguson raved about it when he was here. Now, I'm -from- Philly, so take that for what it's worth. The filling was fantastic. The bread was, like seemingly every other cheesesteak outside of Philly, not close. Still enjoyed it though. Finally made it to the Finley Blvd. Farmer's Market today, too... wow. What a gem. Totally sketchy industrial wholesale and farmers selling. There were some vendors that look like they'd done hard time. Recently. ;-) But that's the appeal of it all. Wife and I just finished chowing on a big ole pot of corn on the cob from one of the vendors there. Anyway, enough rambling. So happy to have found this site!